Sunday, January 25, 2015

Combat Infantryman's Badge- as told by Paul Fussel in "The Boys' Crusade"


Combat Infantryman's Badge or CIB

"One evening on Long Island, James Jones climbed willingly up to the attic to locate a box of war stuff his son had asked to see.  As Willie Morris reports Jones saying while he sorted through the ribbons and their attachments,
2nd Lt. Paul Fussell, 45th ID
Paris, 1945
'This one here, it's the only one we wore when we shipped home.'  He pointed to the replica of a rifle on a field of blue with a silver wreath around it.  'It's the Combat Infantryman's Badge.'
     'Why,' asks the boy, 'why is that the only one you ever wore?'
     'Oh shit, I don't know.  It was a point of pride, you see-- better than all the rest.  It spoke for itself.  It really meant something.  It was an unbroken rule.  If you wore any of the others, the men would've laughed you out of town, or maybe whipped your ass.' 
R. Kotlowitz's memoir cover, 26th ID
The difference is empirical.  The badge was awarded for being in ultimate danger, the ribbons for what somebody said about your behavior-- meaningless and probably corrupt testimony, as most infantrymen knew, having seen their battalion staffs piling up unearned honors.  The CIB you earned without anyone "putting you in" for it.  You knew, and the company roster knew, without anyone's agreement of ass-kissing, what you'd been through to wear it.  It was private, almost secret, telling would-be melodramatists, "Don't ask."  The CIB is the only thing pinned onto Robert Kotlowitz's jacket in the photo accompanying his memoir.  The silence is eloquent, like the modest it betokens."  

--Paul Fussell, "The Boys' Crusade", pgs. 102-103

PURCHASE Paul Fussell's "The Boys' Crusade" HERE

*In 1947 the US government authorized that any infantryman earning the CIB in WWII was automatically eligible for a bronze star.*

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